The film slate for SXSW 2021 was released today and with it came a few genre films that will be making their World Premiere including Jaco Bouwer’s ‘Gaia.’ It looks like a mind melting creature feature with a create that will consume everything around it until it is swallowed up by its madness. The film seems to answer the question what if you crossed over ‘Swamp Thing’ with ‘The Birch’ in a more sophisticated manner. It looks fantastic and we now have the trailer to back it up!
SYNOPSIS: On a surveillance mission in a primordial forest, a park ranger encounters two survivalists following a post-apocalyptic lifestyle. The boy and his philosophical father seem to have their own religion, and a mysterious relationship to nature. There are many suspicious aspects to their existence, but when the cabin is attacked by strange, post-human beings one night, she learns that there is a greater threat in this emergent wilderness. GAIA is an ecological horror fantasy which engages the burning issues of our time.
It is sometimes difficult to keep contemplating and discussing the issues we face regarding the continuation of life on this planet, as we pollute the oceans, cause mass deforestation and release ever-increasing amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, leading to an increase in temperature, turbulent weather and hurtling the planet towards crisis.
A week into filming, production was halted due to the outbreak of COVID. We had to stop filming and were only able to pick up 3 months later. Suddenly what was fiction became a strange form of reality and a pre-apocalyptic film started to resonate more with cast and crew. We experience a searing grief and horror when the collapse flickers into view. We find it very difficult to contemplate, to think the unthinkable, to navigate the almost unbearable feelings which arise in each of us.
I don’t think the performances in Gaia would’ve had the same emotional undercurrent if it wasn’t for the pandemic and its interruption into our work. My vision, to construct a paranoid chamber piece about trust, betrayal, and survival, was subconsciously fed by this new, added sense of fear and uncertainty during that first outbreak of the Coronavirus in the beginning of 2020.
Gaia became a portrait of theological paranoia: what is to become of humanity once it discovers it has been expelled from Eden? Or, even more: that Eden itself has expelled it, turned against it, and is taking its revenge? In a sense, it’s a reverse horror film – the outside world is scary, but the real enemy is inside. Straddling the line between fantasy and reality, we are left to wonder how much of the characters’ monstrous vision of nature is real, and how much is a psychotic vision. Their descent into madness is a desire for chaotic salvation, a desire to become animal, a gospel that replicates like a disease. Here lies the core of the film. Gaia is an ecological horror, a survivalist drama which unfolds into a Biblical horror resonating with the Abrahamic tale of The Binding. Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son Isaac is a potent metaphor of the current state of the politics of ecology. Humanity, empowered to alter the world in ways thought impossible before, is led by a generation fully prepared to sacrifice its own offspring.
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